Writing and Reading Lessons

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

“Nobody needs me to sing MacDonald’s praises, but that yard of books did more for me than provide excellent entertainment. For some reason the McGee books spoke to me like textbooks. I felt I could see what MacDonald was doing, and why, and how, as if I could see beneath the skin.” ~ Lee Child

“Dickens didn’t write what people wanted. Dickens wanted what people wanted.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~ Stephen Pressfield

I’ve gone back to working on my sequel novel to The Space Between Time, and because of that and the political climate, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my characters Jenna and Morgan and their relationships with their husbands. I’ve known for quite some time that Morgan becomes a Suffragist, and Jenna has a tangle with the conservative right who want to keep women in their place. But when I first started working on that manuscript in 2014 I felt a little bit stuck. Things were going along pretty smoothly at the time but events have turned to give me more fodder for my imagination. Because of that I’ve been thinking about how Jack and Seth will react to their wives becoming activists. I want to get into their heads to see what interesting things their struggles will bring to the story. This book may turn out to be more about how men and women relate to each other than Jenna and Morgan’s involvement in the women’s movements of their respective time periods.

As I’ve no doubt written before, my mind is rarely quiet. I’m always storing away bits of information I pick up from the books I read, current events, the movies and TV shows I watch, and conversations with friends and family.

Every once in a while all the disparate things I’ve been thinking or observing come to a conjunction and I get a big AHA. I’ve recently had one of those ahas when I read an article about “The Awesome Omega Male.” I don’t want to go into detail about how my thinking came together, however, I will say that I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the different kinds of male characters in movies and books.

My husband and I had been watching many action movies lately. After reading the above mentioned article, I realized that male oriented action movies come in two basic categories. There are the alpha male movies with the characters who are egotistical and on a rampage of revenge. It could be as trivial a reason as somebody messed with their stuff, or crossed them in some way. I don’t like those kind. They don’t seem to have a point.

In the other category there are characters who are alienated from society, but they have more omega male qualities. These characters are introverted and like it. They don’t go seeking trouble but if it comes, they have the skills to take out the bad guys. They can be empathetic and kind, but for the most part they like working on their own. They don’t have much of an ego because they know their own strengths and weaknesses and how use both to accomplish their goals. In this last category of movies, the men use violence only when necessary to protect those who really need it.

One thing I loved about the article on omega men was it defined the type of men I grew up knowing. I knew that I could go to my father with a problem and he’d listen without judgment. I could rely on him to protect me if I needed it, but he also encouraged me to stand up for myself. So that’s the kind of male characters I created for The Space Between Time. When my writer friend told me that she thought my male characters were too soft, I told her I wrote the kind of men I knew, yet I did consider making them tougher. However I just couldn’t do it. I liked the men I’d created, and I didn’t want to change them. The article on omega men gave me the justification for the type of male characters I had written.

As Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series says, “Character is king.” He’s right. We remember characters over plot, but the plot is what the characters swim in to learn their lessons, to grow and change, and to accomplish their goals. That means that we must create lots of challenges for our characters to deal with, which in turn helps us show who our characters are.

Child also said in the introduction to the first Jack Reacher book, that he likes characters who are winners but alienated in some way. He likes characters who are confident and who can defeat their enemies. We have traditionally thought that the winners are the alpha males, the strongest, loudest, most domineering egotistical men. But the world is changing and so are men. We need winners who fight for all of us, not just to make themselves look good.

As I’ve been thinking about the omega male model, I’ve been comparing it to the female psychological models. According to an article I read by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D., women’s primary motivating drive is toward connection with others. Alpha males think that’s a weakness but we’re discovering it’s a huge strength. That’s the one omega man trait that the above movie characters struggle with. Many of them have had a significant close relationship, or they would like to have a connection with someone but for now, they’re loners.

Since reading, as the Lee Child quote above says, is like taking a writing seminar, I’m reading some Jack Reacher and other books with strong male characters. I want to get a different perspective on men so I can use this information to flesh out Jack and Seth and the other male characters in my book. I want them to be distinct from each other and believable, but most of them will continue to be omega males.

I’m discovering that reading really is a fantastic way to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

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Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

Write What You Know.

Getting a hug from Dad

Getting a hug from Dad

“People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to.” ~ George Allen, Sr.

“Self-knowledge is essential not only to writing, but to doing almost anything really well. It allows you to work through from a deep place – from the deep, dark corners of your subconscious mind.” ~ Meg Rosoff

“Every writing teacher gives the subliminal message, every time they teach: ‘Your life counts for something.’ In no other subject that I know of is that message given.” ~ Roger Rosenblatt

The last time I had my writer friends read through the latest revisions to my manuscript, one of them said she thought the men were too soft. “That’s okay if you want this story to be used for a Hallmark movie but I think the men need to be rougher.” I was taken aback by that. I said, “Well, I’m writing what I know. My father was soft, my husband, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, uncles, are all like the characters in my book. I guess I don’t know how to write any other way.”

Since my conversation with my friend, I’ve been thinking a great deal about whether or not I should take her advice. I considered it for a while because some of the movies on Hallmark are sappy and the characters rather one dimensional. I considered making the change, but, I can’t. There are a few men in my book who are not kind. They are reflections of people I have known who treated me badly. But the rest are like the men at church when I was growing up, or the men in my family. Maybe my book is more positive and Jenna and Morgan are surrounded by lots of loving people, but to me that’s normal and I have to write what I know.

Still, my friend’s comment nagged at me, and made me doubt what I had written. “Maybe it’s not true to most people’s lives,” I thought. Maybe it is sappy, like some of those Hallmark movies and shows, but I’m writing what I know.

I have to admit, I’m growing tired of the on slot of dark books, movies and television shows. It’s almost like perpetual Halloween with all the vampires, zombies, and shows about ad men treating their coworkers badly, or brewing up crystal meth to make money to leave their family after they die. Yuck. I don’t want to watch those shows. At least, I don’t want a steady diet of them, and if I don’t, maybe I’m not alone in feeling that way. I may be wrong but it seems harder to find positive stories, with loving characters that are genuine and touching in an unsappy kind of way. When I read a book, watch a movie or TV show, I want to feel good at the end, and like I learned something.

Last week I was looking for a novel to read. I have several on my Amazon wish list but I didn’t want to spend the money now, so I went to the long lists of books I have on my iBooks and Kindle apps. I found, Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. I saw the movie several years ago and I remember how it touched me. It’s a quiet story about a seventeen year old girl who is pregnant, and on a road trip with her boyfriend from Tennessee to California. When she asks him to stop so she can go to the restroom for the umpteenth time, he leaves her in a Walmart in a small town in Oklahoma. Abandoned with no money, she lives in the Walmart until the night her baby is born. Along her journey she finds a number of loving people who take her in as if she were family, and she learns a great deal about herself along the way. It’s one of those stories where the struggles are mostly internal. There are no vampires, zombies, werewolves, or angry aliens to defeat. Okay, full disclosure, sometimes I like those kinds of stories too. But not a steady diet of them.

I finished Where the Heart Is this morning. The end was so touching that I cried. The book is beautifully written, and as I read the last page, I felt like there is hope for the human race after all, that no matter how bad your life is, you can find love and forgiveness. That’s the kind of book I want to write even if it’s not popular. I want my readers to cry at the end, or feel the joy my characters find. I want them to feel like the human race, despite our struggles, is headed in a positive direction. I don’t know how to write anything else and that is, I can finally say honestly, okay with me.

If you like quiet more positive reading or viewing fare, here are some suggestions. In books: Winter Solstice, by Rosamond Pilcher. I’ve read a couple of her books now and they are thought provoking and positive. Any thing by Madeleine L’Engle, but my favorite is the series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time. They are categorized as Young Adult fiction but I found that the young people at the center of the books must deal with adult problems.

A couple of movies I’ve seen recently that I thought about long after the last frame went black are: The Age of Adaline and Brooklyn. In both, there is a woman protagonist, which I loved. The women in each of these movies have inner conflicts to work out which is what the story revolves around. I found both deeply satisfying.

There are many others, of course, like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, or almost any movie written by women (or Joss Whedon). Then there are the classic movies like Random Harvest, Now Voyager, To Kill A Mockingbird (both the book and the movie), PinkyPeople Will Talk, and, of course, I Remember Mama about a writer who learns to write what she knows. You don’t want to get me started on classic movies. I could write a book about what I’ve learned watching them. Maybe someday I will.

I guess I’m on a mission to change the world through entertainment and through my own writing. I hope you won’t settle for watching only blockbuster movies or reading only the latest best sellers. While those may be fantastic, there are so many exceptional authors and movie makers doing extraordinary work. And if we celebrate their work, then maybe these quieter, deeply human stories will get more recognition.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I just saw a trailer for a new Amazon series, Good Girls Revolt. It’s based on real events at a news magazine in the late 1960’s during the Woman’s Movement. This looks a lot more interesting than Mad Men. (I’ve never seen Mad Men. It may be really good, but it seemed to me that men behaving badly is what that story is about and I’m looking for some quite different.) I think I’ll check out this new series and see if it fits what I’m looking for.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Determined Meandering

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I had a very different idea for today’s post until I met with my writer friends to discuss my manuscript.

The good news is, the plot is much improved. The other news, I refuse to say bad news, is that there is still work to do, and I’m dedicated to doing it.

Never before have I felt so engaged by my work. While I love being a teacher, there are aspects of the job that are annoying. Not so with writing. Working on this book is a little bit like watching a beloved movie over and over again and noticing things I had never seen before. Each time through the manuscript I understand a little bit more about my characters, I see places that need to be consolidated or cut, and I clean up sloppy sentence structure. Each improvement feels good.

At first when my friends gave me suggestion after suggestion, my heart sank a bit. I was hoping the manuscript was closer to being ready for publication. But as I digested their comments and where they want me to go with the book, I began to feel renewed excitement. They think the story is engaging which makes me determined to keep working.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I long for the book to be finished. It’s a little bit like being on a teeter totter. Some days I’m up and some days I’m down. But isn’t that what life is all about anyway? Taking the challenges in our stride is what makes life interesting.

The other day I was checking into my Facebook feed, I’ve been taking a little break from it of late, and I followed a link to an article about a group of people living on the Greek island of Ikaria who are long lived, and extremely happy. They don’t have lots of possessions, many worries, or health problems. They sleep late, work in their gardens or at their jobs until mid-afternoon, then take a long nap. They eat simple meals and in the evening they socialize with their family and neighbors. As I read the article, I was thinking that’s the life for me! In the next moment I laughed at myself because for the most part, that’s the life I live, only instead of working in the garden, I write.

What can be more satisfying than to do what you love. You can have your rush to success. I’ll meander like the river and eventually reach a quiet cove, then be off again on another adventure.

P.S. I used to live on the Columbia River Gorge. I miss the reminder to go with the flow.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Words, Words, Words

Classic Books

Classic Books

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~ Will Rogers

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

It’s ironic that someone like me, who loves solitude should also love words both spoken and read. Or maybe it’s that I love stories. Stories in all forms, visual, aural, and on the page touch my soul. I just finished reading a fascinating book series by Marissa Meyer using the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and weaving them together in a Sci-Fi/fantasy world where the evil queen is ruler of Luna but wants to conquer Earth. After finishing the first book, Cinder. I was hooked and now that I’ve finished the last book, Winter, I can’t stop thinking about the characters and events of the books. I highly recommend them for all you Sci-Fi/fantasy lovers out there.

The fact that I’m having a hard time letting go of the story of these four strong women characters got me thinking about other novels, or short stories that have had a deep impact on me. So for today’s post, I thought I’d share an abbreviated list of my all-time favorite books.

The first book of quality that grasped me was A Tale of Two Cities. The character of Sydney Carton is my favorite from the book. He’s a flawed character who redeems himself by taking Charles Darnay’s place to face the guillotine during the French Revolution. The speech he gives as he faces his death is one of the classics for all time. I love the theme that people can change, and in the direst of circumstances make a difference, no matter how small. This book ignited my love of British literature, both classic and modern.

Later, my perspective of the world changed when I read first Roots and shortly after Shogun. Both books put me into the heads of characters who lived in very different cultures and circumstances than I did and I still feel their influence to this day. Who could have read, or seen Roots and still think slavery was a tenable practice? When I read it with one of my English classes, my students were just as appalled at what the slaves experienced as I was. It’s a book that helps the reader develop empathy, and that makes it a classic in my mind. Any book that can give the reader new insights speaks a universal language for the ages.

In recent years I have been deeply affected by each of the books in the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Outlander series, and I loved The Book Thief, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Go Set A Watchman. Each of those books showed the strength and resilience of the women main characters, a trend I love.

In general I don’t read short stories often because I like to take my time and savor the story, but one collection that changed my perception of spirituality was The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images by Martin Bell. It was first published in 1968. I discovered it in the early 80s when I was still very involved in church. One story in particular continues to influence my thinking. It’s “What the Wind Said to Thajir”. In the very short story, Thajir, a young boy, goes out to play. He loves the wind. On the fall day in the story, the wind speaks to Thajir and shares three great life secrets with him, everything that is is good, at the center of things life belongs to life, and that the meaning and purpose of life is in dying on behalf of the world. Recent events have brought back to mind the importance of these three great secrets. For that reason, I read the story again to refresh my memory of the important message shared in the story.

What I look for when I read a book, is to get inside someone else’s world and experience it with them. A book that allows me to get inside a character’s head to feel their confusion, fear, despair, awakening and finally growth is to me the epitome of a great story. There are so many superb books that I’ve read that I continue to think about long after I’ve read them. Too many to mention here. If I’m still thinking about a book years after I’ve read it, that’s the sign of a great author.

I understand that we all come into this world with different agendas and points of view, so these books I’ve mentioned might not speak to you the way they do me. That’s okay as long as we each remain open to new ideas however they come to us, that’s the point. The people I’m concerned for are those with closed minds who think they already have all the knowledge they need. Hopefully they are few and far between.

I hope you will share some of your favorite books in the comments below. I’m always looking for the next life changing book.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Creativity

Daffodils serenading the sun.

Daffodils serenading the sun.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” ~ Albert Einstein

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’ve been reading some nonfiction books for a change and as they always do, they make me think about my life. I wrote about reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert last week. This week, I’m reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown. Both books have stirred the pot of my well of creativity. All of a sudden I’ve got ideas about new projects coming at me. In one way, that’s fantastic. In another, I don’t feel like I’ve got enough time to write them all down. I guess the ideas that are meant for me will stick around. The others will float off and land in another writer’s lap.

One idea I got about a week ago has taken hold. It’s a story about a young girl in an as yet unnamed kingdom who is secretly taught to be a warrior by her father. The young women of the villages in her kingdom must submit to a lottery during their sixteenth year to be sacrificed to a dragon who terrorizes the countryside. Or at least that’s the rumor. No one has seen the dragon for many years. However, the girls who are sacrificed never return, so everyone believes the rumor. The girl’s father teaches her to fight, which is forbidden, in an attempt to save her life. His reasoning is that if she can fight and strategize she might be able to slay the dragon and save the kingdom. I have some ideas about what really happens to the girls, and the discoveries the main character makes because, of course, she is chosen to be the sacrifice. But I have to let those ideas sit on the back burner for awhile before I write them down. The cool thing is that every day I get new ideas about the world in which the girl lives and what might happen to her after she meets the dragon.

It’s fun to have a new project in the works, however, I’m on another round of revisions on my novel, The Space Between Time and I want to get through it a couple more times before sending it off to my writer friends for more comments and possible corrections. Sometimes ideas flow too readily, yet, I’m grateful that they are flowing at all. I want to take a shot at writing them down and to see if the stories take shape.

Something else rumbling around in my head is that it’s almost eight years since I quit teaching full-time to become a writer, and at this juncture, I feel like it’s time to take some classes, or submit some work, do some research for my sequel novel, or do something different with all these ideas.

The bottom line is I’m restless, and yet I crave solitude. Kind of a strange combination of emotions. I think what this all means is that a big change is on its way to me, and that is exciting. I’ve got the summer off. Maybe the changes will happen then. In any case, no teaching for me this summer for the first time in seven or eight years. My mouth almost waters at the thought of eleven or twelve weeks to concentrate on my work with fewer distractions. So, if you ask me to meet for lunch or go for a walk, or some other outing during the day. I may refuse not because I don’t like you, but because I’m focusing on finishing my manuscript, and putting all the new ideas floating around in my head into the computer. How about dinner?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Woes and Rewards of Writing

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“Honesty is your innate ability to stand completely exposed, allowing the world to do what it may and say what it will so that you may know who you are beyond the realm of ideas.” ~ Matt Kahn, Whatever Arises, Love That.

“When I run after what I think I want,
my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety;
if I sit in my own place of patience,
what I need flows to me, and without pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me,
is looking for me and attracting me.
There is a great secret here
for anyone who can grasp it.” ~ Rumi

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way,
that some poems don’t rhyme,
and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end …
Life is about not knowing,
having to change,
taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity …” ~ Gilda Lee Radner

“Do not compromise your artistic principles, ever. Know who you are and know how you got there. And choose your associates wisely. The ones who believe in you will stay by your side through thick and thin. The rest will disappear and you must allow them to disappear. Please yourself first. Be your own worst critic. Dive fearlessly into your own soul. Everything else is minutia. ~ Terry Green

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows part 2, Dumbledore says that “Words, in my most humble opinion, are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I agree with him, or rather Steve Kloves who wrote the screenplay. But sometimes finding the right words to express the inner experience is difficult. I’ve been struggling with that as I continue the seemingly endless revisions to my first novel, The Space Between Time.

Part of the difficulty I’m having has to do with the fact that I’ve come to a peaceful place in my life and I find that it’s difficult to remember all the pain and suffering that brought me here. But conflict is the heart of story and if my two main characters are a reflection of my own life’s journey, then I’ve got to put them through the same kind of life shattering situations I experienced. My characters have to make mistakes and the wrong assumptions, they have to struggle to grow and improve their lives just like I’ve had to do. If I don’t write them this way, they won’t be well rounded characters.

At first I resisted going back and digging up my past. Who wants to live their own dark times? I wanted my characters to be happy enlightened people. But my book was boring and didn’t reflect real life. Something interesting has happened as I’ve worked to remember. I’ve discovered that issues I thought were healed long ago, still have rough edges that prick and hurt. Writing and working on myself are like a dance. Sometimes my toes get stepped on, but that wakes me up to the next round of healing I need to do, which in turn helps me make the situations in my book more realistic.

There are times when I feel very vulnerable and exposed by what I’ve written. It can be such an uncomfortable place in which to be. Yet creativity is impossible if we’re not open to uncertainty. Ah, delicious ambiguity! That’s where the possibilities lie. Writing reveals the heart of the writer and exposes it to the world. Artists know that none of us can move forward, we can’t have that happy life we long for without becoming vulnerable. When we embrace uncertainty, possibilities open up for us. That’s what my characters are teaching me. I hope doing all this self-examination is helping to improve my book. I guess we’ll see.

Ah, well, back to revising and peeling back the layers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Blessing of Patience

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“The longest journey
is the journey inwards.
Of him who has chosen his destiny,
Who has started upon his quest
For the source of his being.” ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

“Imagination is what is there after you know everything; without knowledge, one’s imagination may be too thin – lacking in strength and too fragile to build on.” ~ American director Zelda Fichandler

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~ E. L. Doctorow

I’ve discovered this book revision business is not for sissies. It’s a long process of peeling back the layers to get to the real thing I’m trying to say.

Before Christmas, I was very impatient to get the revisions finished during my month long break from teaching. But, of course, my hopes did not come true and in a way that’s a blessing. To tell you the truth I’ve been impatient to finish my novel for a year or more. That was part of the problem with earlier drafts. I rushed through important sections of the story. It’s never good to cheat the reader by not exploring an issue the characters must deal with.

The other day I watched Sense and Sensibility as my personal tribute to actor Alan Rickman who died last week. He’s one of my favorite actors. Part of the reason I love his work is because he never rushed through his lines. In his movies, you always know exactly what he’s saying because he enunciates every word enhancing the emotional emphasis.

After watching the movie, I was reading the trivia on Internet Movie Database. In it Emma Thompson, the screenwriter, stated that she’s a slow writer. It took her three years to finish the screenplay. When I read that, I had to admit I’m a slow writer too. And something about her saying that, allowed me to finally let go of trying to finish my book quickly. I am going to hold it within my being so I can more easily see beneath the surface of where the story is leading me.

Something else helped me decide that working slowly but steadily is a good thing. I watched the movie Proof in preparation for my dramatic structure students watching it tonight. It’s about Catherine, a mathematics genius, who has to put her life on hold to take care of her mentally ill father, Robert, who is a mathematics legend for solving an important proof when he was in his twenties. Catherine and Hal, Robert’s former student, are talking about Hal’s work in mathematics. He’s discouraged and doesn’t think he’ll ever make any significant contribution to the field. Catherine encourages him by saying something like, “You have to chip away at a problem. Sometimes you have to come at it sideways.” That’s what creative people do. They think outside the box.

It’s too bad we live in a fast food society where we demand instant gratification because the invention, the social change, the play, musical piece, or painting all take time. Sometimes many years. Building a healthy business takes lots of work too. Just as changing your life for the better takes a consistent effort and sometimes you have to sneak up on your problems from the side to get the perspective you need to solve them.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll approach my novel from the side. Perhaps being silent and listening to my characters speak to me is the best way to do it. In any case, I’ll keep chipping away at my novel until it tells me it’s finished. I’ll let you know from time to time how it’s coming.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

How Do You Know When It’s Finished?

Approved by my readers

Approved by my readers

“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” ~ Carlton Cuse

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” ~ Julia Cameron

“Any creative process is about being in a territory which isn’t secure, isn’t necessarily familiar, and isn’t convenient in any sort of way. And that’s the excitement of it.” ~ Susanne Bier

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.” ~ Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

When I first thought of writing this post, I was asking myself, “How in the heck will I know when my book is finished?” It’s been such a long time in coming. Years in fact. After so many revisions, so many I’ve lost count, I wonder if I will know when my manuscript is ready to publish.

Many authors think they are finished with their manuscript so they go through the long process of finding an agent, then a publisher, then there are more edits according to the advice of the publishers. No wonder so many people who think they want to write the next great American novel give up. You spend years writing and revising and then you will probably get rejection after rejection before, or if, someone decides they want to publish your book. And then it takes another year or two before its available in bookstores. I’m not sure I have that much time. After all, I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until I was fifty-four years old. I’m now sixty-two. I don’t want to wait another two or three years to see my book published.

That’s why I’ve decided to publish my book myself instead of waiting until a publisher decides its worth their time. Maybe I’m crazy, but something inside tells me to follow my own instincts about every aspect of this process and not rely on the approval of other people. In any case, the way the publishing world has evolved, even a new writer backed by a traditional publisher, needs to have a following in place and they have to do much of the marketing themselves. So, why not self-publish? The process of publishing a book is fairly easy now days.

Even though I’ve decided to publish the book myself, I still have the question in my head, “How will I know when its finished?” This is what I think happens. There is a click in an artists head that tells him or her when their piece is complete. That doesn’t mean perfect, it just means that the work is as finished as the author’s abilities allow at that time. Nothing created is ever perfect, but there comes a point when any changes made to the painting, or the song, or the book are just changes. They don’t improve the piece.

I read a quote recently, I can’t remember where, that said something like, “An author writes the book, it’s the reader who attaches the meaning.” Since I believe that is true, it’s my job to finish telling the story that wants to be told and then send it out into the world. No one will be able to attach the meaning to it that I do because they didn’t live the experiences that brought the book into being. I just hope it touches people. That’s the most I can hope for. Writing this article has helped me see that my manuscript IS nearly finished. There may be a few more tweaks after my writer friends give me their comments, but my instincts tell me that I don’t need to make any more major changes. It’s as good as I can make it and that has to be good enough for me. I hope it’s good enough for my readers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Allowing the Stretch

Temporary Book Cover

Temporary Book Cover

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” ~ John Wooden

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” ~ Bruce Lee

“There’s no limit possible to the expansion of each of us.” ~ Charles Schwab

“My ambition comes from my passion: finding what I love and then expanding on that.” ~ Miranda Kerr

In general I love learning new things except when I don’t think I have a facility for it. Then I resist the lessons. I have this idea in my mind of my skill set and for the most part I don’t want to stretch past that. Most of us don’t want to do things we don’t think we’re good at. But sometimes we surprise ourselves if we try to learn something new.

When I became a full-time writer, all I wanted to do was concentrate on the writing. I didn’t want to think about the marketing and promotion that I was inevitably going to have to do when I published my books. I’m not a marketing genius, nor am I a good salesperson. The idea of peddling my book made me cringe.

Knowing that at some point I was going to have to address this issue, because I plan to self-publish, I would from time to time read how-to essays by artists and writers about the ins and outs of getting their work noticed by the general public. Unfortunately, after reading only a short portion of the book or article, my eyes would glass over and the pit of my stomach would sink. The experts I read said you have to be aggressive, you have to get your name out there, you have to talk about your work on social media, you have to push, push, push. Ugh. I hated it.

I’m an introvert. I don’t want to do blast marketing where every hour a tweet or post screams at people to go buy my book. That’s just not me. It seemed to me that most marketing and promotion wisdom is created by extroverts who have no problem tooting their own horn. I have a difficult time doing that. But the problem of how to market my book kept nagging at me. I knew I needed to come up with a plan but what?

So, I meditated and prayed about the problem. I hoped that providence would send me a new way to promote myself and my work that wouldn’t feel awful. I was just beginning to despair when Hay House sent me an email about Jeff Walker, with an internet marketing scheme that intrigued me. His business is called the Product Launch Formula (trademark). I watched the first video and was surprised that he gave so much great information about how to market anything I might want to sell but, as he said in the video, not is a sleazy or used car salesman kind of way. A few days later another email with a video link came and a few days another. By the time I’d watched the three videos I had the outline of how to market my book in a way that fits who I am.

Jeff is all about giving good value to your prospect ahead of time and asking for their advice and comments. If you can get to know the people who are interested in what you have to offer, it’s easier to promote your product. I loved that! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for his six month course this time. But when I was poking around his site I discovered he had written a book (Launch) that contains the information I needed to get started. I bought it that very day and have since read it. As I read, all kinds of great ideas of how to promote my work popped into my mind. This method was exactly what I needed. Because of this book I feel like I can be an expert at building a list of followers without coercing them to buy. That’s something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do.

Before the Jeff Walker videos, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to build a list of followers. Part of my mind was closed. I didn’t want to have to market my books myself. Couldn’t I just have someone do it for me? However, the reality for authors today is that you’ve got to be actively engaged with your readers or potential readers even if your book is published in the conventional way. There are so many books being published, that it’s hard for new authors to get noticed and to gain a following. Jeff suggests you begin by using your email list to grow your customer base. You can start small by directing potential customers to an opt in page and you can also use word of mouth to attract new followers. I love that!

Even before learning about Jeff Walker, I made it a practice to avoid the best seller lists and read books by authors who aren’t as well known. If I like their book, I write a review on Amazon, iBooks, and/or Goodreads so that hopefully the author will expand their readership. Already I’ve made some online writer friends because I’ve written reviews, or retweeted the link to their book. It’s amazing how many new people I’ve met using this method.

Maybe I’ll coin a new phrase, “Karma Marketing,” in which helping others be successful will help me be successful too. That’s what Jeff Walker advocates. As you start your business, you make connections with people who resonate with you, and you support each other. He uses the term Mastermind Group, which is more than just a networking group. In your mastermind group, you hold each other accountable for improving your business by offering new products or services that your customers or fan base can use. Always give more value than they expect. It’s a new trend in business to be of service, rather than bilk your customers by selling inferior products and getting top dollar for those products. That’s something I can get behind.

Of course building a fan base takes time and effort, but it’s effort I’m willing to make if I can offer my readers something they will enjoy. Something extra I’ve created just for them. When I do this I may make some friends along the way. That’s always a good thing. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally someone who thinks like I do, and who is willing to help me build a business that is people friendly.

I’m going to do a little bit of word of mouth promotion for Jeff. If you buy his book, Launch, you get a step by step process that will help you begin your business, and access to a resource page with videos and instructions on how to do some of the technical stuff that an online business requires. This is what makes me excited. I won’t be alone as I step outside my comfort zone and stretch into learning a new but vital skill I will need to help me grow my fan base. Thanks Jeff and thanks Providence!

Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015